Comic fans were thrilled to death when they heard that the X-Men comics they had loved for years were going to hit the motion picture screen. That movie and it’s two sequels pleased most but not all of the fans and brought new people into the world of the X-Men who had never heard of them. By the time the third film came out, fans were slowly dwindling away. It was time to start the franchise up with something fresh, something new. And that happens with X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.
It may be new but its old as well, deciding to go into the past of the X-Men instead of the present or future. This time around we see the beginnings of the X-Men, how Magneto and Charles Xavier started out as friends and then took to opposite sides of their life long battle to gain acceptance of mutants, one through peaceful means the other through force.
We witness the two as children when the film opens, one held in a concentration camp, the other in a mansion. Erik Lensherr’s (later Magneto) magnetic abilities are noticed and brought to the attention of Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) who kills his mother to force Erik to let his abilities flow. A tragic mistake on Shaw’s part as this sets in motion a years long search by Erik to find him and take his life.
Xavier on the other hand lives in the lap of luxury. He discovers someone in his home one night only to find his mother in the kitchen. A few questions later and its revealed this is not his mother but a shape shifting mutant known as Raven whom Xavier’s family adopts.
Years later the world is a different place. It’s the sixties and the cold war is in full bloom. CIA agent Moira McTaggert (Rose Byrne) is trying to find evidence that Shaw is involved with the Russians in a plot to overthrow the world. Her search yields the discovery that mutants are being employed by Shaw and she seeks out an expert on mutants to understand the possible problems, a newly appointed Professor named Xavier (James McAvoy).
The CIA isn’t convinced that mutants exist or that they can be trusted with the exception of one known as the man in black (Oliver Platt). He takes Charles, Raven and Moira to a secret base he’s established. With the help of fellow mutant and scientific genius Hank McCoy and an enhancer he’s made to assist Xavier with his psychic abilities, they begin tracking down a group of other mutants to form a team that will face the challenges of Shaw.
Included in this group is Erik (Michael Fassbender), now trying to track down Shaw as an adult. He nearly finds him but once again Shaw evades him. With the help of Xavier’s group, he now has a chance. He joins and he and Xavier strike up a friendship but with opposing views as to how the world perceives mutants.
Shaw puts things in motion, manipulating the Russians and the Americans. His movements result in the Bay of Pigs face off. Can he begin a world war that will leave mutants alone remaining? Or will Charles Xavier and his X-Men put an end to his madness?
The film does a wonderful job on so many levels. For one, rather than continue the story from the previous films, it takes us back to the beginning where we witness how this team came to be. It also presents us with the back story of why Magneto and Charles both view the world from separate sets of eyes. Both have a point but they’re methods of dealing with the world are completely different.
The film also presents a great way to learn the lesson of acceptance and of bigotry, the basis for the whole series of comics when it began. The metaphor in use then was of a world that wouldn’t accept those who were different (at the time the Civil Rights movement was just making headway) and it’s something we need to be aware of even now. The story of the X-Men was just another way to make us consider that though different in some ways, we are all at our core the same.
The special effects here are well done. They never go over the top or try to make the viewer jump up screaming WOW, but are toned down to give us what we need to see and know without taking center stage. In so doing, we remain focused on the story with that added touch along for the ride.
It’s nice to see that they’ve taken this story and set the stage for more to be told. With this fresh take one can only hope that more will be made. Oh, and one small mention. This film contains one of the funniest best done cameos since ZOMBIELAND. Just be aware that it uses the F bomb if you have small children. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is a great example of a comic come to life on film and would be well worth adding to your collection.
For fans be aware that there are several covers to this DVD that are being released so take your pick.
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